Hilda Coyne, Editor
HOLIDAYS AND NEW INFORMATION
wishes for a great year ahead. Many helpful suggestions followed
the last issue. As a result, the next issue will offer a new
category for those seeking employees or employment opportunities
to post their listings Please continue to share your valuable
issue presents articles on accommodations, by-pass strategies
and remediation, including seminal research, for instance,
on the use of color in handwriting. The article on teaching
math to students with learning differences also incorporates
color and innovative methods for organizing math instruction.
you missed the last issue, please click on the link "Please
see other issues to read the many wonderful articles, including
those by Dr. Susan Vogel, an editor of the Journal of Learning
Disabilities and the Annals of Dyslexia, and on
facilitation for students with learning differences, by Dr.
Barbara Guyer on the gifted and different learners. Please
also see the articles on legislative concerns, and much more.
you for all of your kind compliments and suggestions. I will
present a session entitled "Applying Brain Research Findings
to the Remedial Treatment of Reading, Writing and Math"
at the NADE conference in Austin, Texas, on February 13th.
I look forward to seeing you there and thanking you personally.
THE ADULT YEARS
Joan Shapiro, Ed.D. and Rebecca Rich, Ed.D.
In our recently published book, Facing Learning Disabilities
in the Adult Years, we address the range of problems of adults
who have learning disabilities. Why the interest? Between five and
eleven million individuals or 10% of the adult population in this
country, struggles with learning disabilities. School dropout rates
exceed 40 percent in contrast to 25-30 percent in the general population.
A learning disability is a lifelong condition. Some adults have
learned to compensate for their difficulties by the time they have
completed their formal education. For many others, however, problems
continue and impact to varying degrees, on careers, social relationships,
and activities of daily living. There are adults who were diagnosed
as children and received support services, but others had difficulty
throughout school, never knew why and, as adults, are seeking answers
and help. The field of learning disabilities, once almost exclusively
involved in the education of children and adolescents, is now concerned
with the needs of adults as well.
Adults are not merely children with learning disabilities grown
up. The impact of the disability differs at each stage of development.
Some of the problems learning soften with age. These changes are
due to the development of skills and the ability to employ compensatory
strategies. For example, phonological and decoding skills improve
in many, and reading strategies and increased background knowledge
strengthen comprehension. It is also reported that in approximately
one-third of the cases, the symptoms of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity
Disorder lessen with age.
Psychosocial problems are evident in adulthood and often center
on issues of self-esteem, passivity and motivation. Some of the
research suggests that the symptoms of dependency and passivity
are the result of negative experiences, such as repeated failure
and frustration as well as the belief that success is not within
personal control. While strategy use becomes more integrated into
daily life, executive function often remains ineffective and is
not called into action. The changing demands of adulthood significantly
alter an individual's needs and perspective. For many adults, there
is difficulty completing school and finding satisfying employment
options. Others are able to find employment and career opportunities
in which they succeed and bypass some of the learning problems.
There has been an increased response to the growing number of adults
who have a learning disability. There are legal mandates such as
the Americans with Disabilities Act and programs in colleges, in
communities and in the workplace designed to address the needs of
this population. More and more colleges and universities are providing
support for the steady increase in enrollment of students with learning
disabilities. The degree and nature of service varies greatly from
campus to campus.
Supports are often needed as well for adults to be successful in
the workplace. Employers typically want their workers, whether or
not they have a learning disability, to be proficient in reading,
writing and mathematical skills; and be able to apply these skills
to solve problems. Employers further expect employees to have good
interpersonal skills and be able to use technology and information
systems. Educators and related professionals are recognizing these
on the job demands, and through such initiatives as transition planning
are trying to prepare young people with the competencies needed
in the workplace. While fewer options are available once an individual
leaves a formal school setting, some businesses and industries do
have programs and there are programs outside the workplace as well
sponsored by libraries, government departments and voluntary literacy
groups. Traditionally, the goal of these programs has been to develop
basic skills, but today the focus is shifting to more advanced reading,
writing, mathematical, and technological skills and strategies.
In addition to the development of these skills, studies have shown
that success is related to self-determination, which is defined
as the ability to take control and reframe the learning disability
into a more positive experience. This, of course, involves the ability
and willingness to work hard, persevere and set realistic goals.
Knowledge and understanding of the nature of the disability is needed,
though, to achieve these goals. Other factors that contribute to
success include an individual's ability to access and use support
systems, such as a therapist, tutor, mentor or the members of one's
own family. Being proactive and using available support systems
and interventions help one learn new and better ways to compensate
for the disability. Clearly, both internal factors and these external
supports are needed to equip adults and help them succeed.
Ed.D. and Rebecca Rich, Ed.D.
About the Authors
Joan Shapiro holds a doctorate and a master's degree in special
education as well as a masters degree in curriculum and reading
from Teachers College, Columbia University. Previously Associate
Professor of Education at Marymount Manhattan College, she co-developed
and directed the Ruth Smadbeck Communication and Learning Center
for children and adolescents and the program for college students
with learning disabilities. Now in private practice, she lives in
Rebecca Rich holds a doctorate in special education as well as
a master's degree in both reading and special education from Teacher's
College, Columbia University. She developed and for ten years directed
a support program for college students with learning disabilities.
Currently, Professor Rich is full time faculty and Director of Literacy
Education Programs, at the Westchester Graduate Campus of Long Island